Things couldn’t have gone any better for Leeds United in the previous round of Premier League fixtures.

It was the perfect weekend. We came away from Molineux with a maximum haul of points courtesy of a gallant performance. Elsewhere our relegation rivals either shared the spoils, dropped all three points or were inactive.

The three points catapulted Leeds United from second from bottom to 14th. It is a pretty picture, and even prettier with a game in hand over a few of our rivals.

Gaining five league positions on the back of one win also illustrates how tight the battle for survival is.

The relegation league

There is an 11-point gap between Aston Villa in 11th place and Crystal Palace in 12th, while a mere four points separates Palace and Southampton who prop up the rest of the league.

It would take a wretched run of results and calamitous loss of form for the teams above Palace to be dragged into the relegation scrap. So, realistically there are nine teams in the “relegation league”, any one of them with as good a chance of surviving as that of losing their top-flight status.

Keeping tabs on rivals

This weekend’s round of fixtures could bring yet more cheer to Leeds United fans, provided Javi Gracia’s men avoid defeat at Arsenal and results elsewhere go their way.

Six of the teams in the bottom nine – the relegation league – face each other, which means points will either be won, shared or dropped by direct rivals. There will be winners and losers as well as secondary beneficiaries of results of matches played elsewhere.

Leicester City, who many believe are too good to be relegated, are just one point above the relegation zone going into their clash at Crystal Palace, who are five places above them but only two points better off.

For Palace, it will be Roy Hodgson’s first match in charge after returning to the club to replace the man who succeeded him at Selhurst Park in 2021, Patrick Vieira. Will the Eagles benefit from the new manager effect?

Nottingham Forest (16) and Wolves (13) face off at the City Ground in another mouth-watering battle for survival with just a point separating the two teams.

Europa Conference League quarter-finalists West Ham (18) host Southampton (20) in a classic relegation six-pointer. It is a match Southampton cannot afford to lose otherwise they risk being cut adrift in the race for survival.

West Ham will be out to make the first of their two games in hand count and ease the pressure on beleaguered manager David Moyes. They will be desperate to move out of the relegation zone and out of what they believe is a false league position.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth, Everton and my beloved Leeds United will all have the odds heavily stacked against them when they face Fulham, Tottenham and Arsenal respectively. But then again, odds are there to be defied.

Keep an eye on double-headers

Four teams in the “relegation league” have double headers. Bournemouth, Leicester City, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United play again in midweek to make up for their games in hand.

In the context of the race to avoid the drop, Leeds United’s home clash with Nottingham Forest on Wednesday carries extra significance for both teams.

They say don’t count your chickens before they hatch, but the potential return from this fixture could have huge implications for either side’s chances of survival. The surest way for a team to boost their survival chances is to take points off direct rivals.

In fact, I’m wondering to what extent the Forest tie will influence Gracia’s selection for the trip to Arsenal. Will he keep one or two of his big guns in reserve for the winnable Forest clash four days later?

It’s a delicate balancing act and a risky strategy, but football managers are wont to gamble. Sometimes the gambles pay off handsomely. Sometimes they backfire spectacularly.

The likely post-weekend picture

A crude extrapolation of the potential outcomes of the fixtures suggests we are likely to have the general status quo maintained than witness significant positional changes at the bottom, unless Bournemouth, Everton and Leeds United can upset their more fancied opponents.

Otherwise fellow strugglers will swap positions here and there, but none will move out of the bottom nine, which is set to remain a bunched-up mini league for quite some time.

In a perfect Leeds United world we would avoid defeat at Arsenal. Better still, do a smash-and-grab job and come away with all three points. But if we should lose, as many pundits expect us to, it wouldn’t be a fatal blow.

I wouldn’t be surprised either if we found ourselves back in the relegation zone after the weekend fixtures. It would hurt, but nothing to panic about in the grand scheme of things. There is still plenty of football left, and plenty of twists and turns ahead.

Leeds United, how do I love thee!


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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